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Home > Dental Conditions > TMJ & TMD > TMJ & TMD Treatment > TMJ Surgery Is A Last Chance For Relief
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TMJ Surgery: A Last Chance For Relief?


If you're a long-time sufferer of the pain associated with a severe case of temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome (TMJ), you're probably ready to try anything -- even surgery for TMJ -- to get your life back to normal. This is understandable. However, due to the serious nature of TMJ surgery, or any surgery for that matter, it's important to have exhausted all other dental treatment options first. Experts agree that TMJ jaw surgery should be viewed as a last resort.

Alternatives to Surgery for TMJ

TMJ Surgery - Surgery for TMJ is a last resort.

If the nature of your TMJ is painful enough for you to be seriously considering surgery, it's likely that you're already working with a dentist who is a TMJ specialist. This is an important first step toward a successful outcome. Together you should explore all conventional treatment options before committing to TMJ surgery.

In most instances, TMJ is a temporary condition which can be successfully treated by one or more of the following approaches:

When conventional treatments fail to bring relief and the level of your discomfort warrants more aggressive measures, your dentist may consult with an oral surgeon about the advisability of TMJ surgery.

Types of Surgery for TMJ

TMJ surgery is prescribed when it's determined that structural problems are causing pain and limited jaw movement. Repairing or removing the disc between your mandible and temporal bone may prove beneficial in some instances. If you have advanced osteoarthritis, a partial or total joint replacement may relieve symptoms by improving your joint mechanics and motion.

The four most common types of surgery for TMJ are arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, arthroplasty, and open joint. The nature of your condition will determine which TMJ surgery is recommended.

Arthrocentesis TMJ Surgery -- An out-patient procedure, arthrocentesis is performed under general anesthesia. It is used to treat patients without a significant history of TMJ who experience a sudden onset of restricted jaw opening. This procedure involves washing out the affected joint with saline administered through a needle. The goal is to lubricate the joint, loosen scar tissue and improve the range of motion. Occasionally, arthrocentesis surgery for TMJ requires removing tissue adhesion bands and dislodging the disc that is stuck in front of the "ball" portion of the temporomandibular joint's "ball and socket."

Arthroscopy TMJ Surgery -- A minimally invasive out-patient procedure requiring general anesthesia, arthroscopy involves inserting a tiny surgical instrument containing a light and a lens through a small incision in front of the ear. This instrument is connected to a video screen which allows the TMJ specialist to examine the temporomandibular joint, remove inflamed tissue and realign discs. Arthroscopy surgery for TMJ has many benefits including less scarring, fewer complications and shorter recovery time than many other procedures.

Arthroplasty TMJ Surgery -- More complicated cases of TMJ may require an arthroplasty. Typically an inpatient procedure, arthroplasties are most often used for disc repositioning, tissue grafts and gap arthroplasty. These procedures involve making an incision along the ear so the joint space can be examined and adhesions removed, bone spurs shaved and discs sutured or replaced.

Open-Joint TMJ Surgery -- There is a wide range of surgical procedures that fall under this category. As the name implies, open-joint TMJ surgery requires opening the area around the temporomandibular joint so the surgeon has better access to the affected area. These procedures are used to treat deteriorating bone, tumors around the TMJ and scarring or bone chips in the joint. All are performed on an in-patient procedure basis. Recovery time is longer and the likelihood of scarring or nerve damage is greater than with arthroscopic TMJ jaw surgery.

Total Joint Replacement TMJ Surgery -- Considered a "final option," this in-patient procedure involves replacing the natural temporomandibular joints with prostheses. A multi-day hospital stay and extended recovery period should be anticipated.

Thinking About TMJ Surgery?

Get a second opinion first. Make sure you consult with at least one other surgeon who is a TMJ specialist before you pursue a surgical solution. Many TMJ jaw surgery procedures will irreversibly alter your bite, so it's important to conduct extensive due diligence. While TMJ surgery is successful in most instances, it may occasionally produce more pain and problems with the jaw function. Ask a lot of questions to ensure that you're fully informed about the risks and benefits associated with TMJ surgery.

Discuss in detail the likely outcome of the procedure before consenting to TMJ jaw surgery. It's critical that you and your TMJ specialist are on the same page in terms of what you both expect from the surgery. Often patients agree to TMJ jaw surgery in the mistaken belief the procedure is guaranteed to relieve all symptoms of the condition. Be advised that eliminating all pain may be an unrealistic expectation. Conversely, your surgeon's primary goal for the TMJ surgery may be improving jaw function and not alleviating pain.

Is TMJ Jaw Surgery Right For You?

Remember, surgery for TMJ should only be considered when conventional treatments fail to provide relief. Before proceeding with TMJ surgery, make sure you and your oral surgeon discuss in detail the pros and cons of the procedure. 

To find a TMJ dentist, search now or call 1-866-970-0441.

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